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Spam filters and integrated print and electronic fulfillment systems top the list of challenges for online publishers in 2005.

Stephen Laliberte, president of Internet Production in St. Paul, provided us with the following report in response to our query about online publishing, "What was last year like and how do you see 2005 unfolding?"

"The demand for internet publishing systems is increasing. IProduction grew by 30 percent last year. The level of new orders in the fourth quarter is higher than we've ever seen. It used to take me a couple of hours to bill our customers. Now it takes two of us two days. Although I'm sworn to secrecy with each individual publisher, I can reflect on the aggregate trends that I'm seeing.

"The thing that worked best is the model of using a free e-newsletter for lead generation and then selling subscriptions, audio conferences, books, and CDs to that audience," Steve said.

"A case in point would be www.GlobeSt.com. It is the primary feeder system to www.REMNewsletters.com. Our combined e-mail volume from free e-zines went from 5 million a month to 20 million per month. I just signed a deal to be able to have the bandwidth to do 100 million per month in the year 2005."

Big increase in electronic only editions

Steve continued: "We are also seeing a big increase in electronic only editions. In many cases, the price of the electronic edition is higher because it includes archives and alerts while the fulfillment cost is much lower. The electronic products have better profit margins. Without exception, all international deliveries are being converted to electronic delivery. An example would be www.GFRMagazine.com."

Spam filters are biggest challenge

"The biggest challenge in 2004 that will continue in 2005 is getting electronic publications through spam filters. Real readers opt in to quality publications and then the delivery gets blocked because the publication has too many promotional words and it gets tripped up in the spam filter.

"I am trying to gather a bunch of publishers and create a domain called PaidSubscription.com. If a delivery from this address ever got blocked, we would sue them for violating freedom of speech.

"A second challenge is the frustration of not being able to integrate online transactions and fulfillment with the aging fulfillment systems used by most publishers. Those old technologies are not internet aware and the kluges being offered are clunky and expensive. I am hoping that 2005 will bring a completely integrated web base fulfillment system that handles both electronic and print fulfillment--without fees for multi-user systems."

What is not working

"What has not worked," Steve said, "is using promotional e-mail to unqualified lists. When publishers pick up e-mail lists with very questionable usage permission and then send pure promotions, they cause incredible damage to their branded domain names. Once you get black-listed on a brand name, it is very hard to get cleared. That will hurt you for years."

Online revenues in 2005

"In 2005, I think we will see an increase in the percentage of revenue that comes in through web and e-mail. In 2004 we were seeing 25 to 30 percent of total sales booked through the web. As use of e-zines increases, that number will increase.

"Customers are expecting to be able to transact over the web and a publisher that does not do that well will be viewed as outdated. This will increase the pressure to have a web base fulfillment solution.

"Smaller publishers will get a jump on larger publishers. The people who put hundreds of thousands of dollars into proprietary technology in the late 1990s are stuck with it until they finish amortizing the investment. They are also maintaining huge IT staffs that they could easily do without.

"The publishers that have waited and do not have IT staffs are able to get mature solutions at a fraction of the original development price. It is sort of like the new telephone infrastructure in China, which is much better and costs a lot less than the one in Washington, D.C.

Steve Laliberte, iProduction, 3570 Lexington Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55126, 651-483-5610, ext. 26, fax 651-483-4320, www.iproduction.com
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Title Annotation:Internet publishing
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Dec 31, 2004
Words:683
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